Transvestite troupe: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo danced with their trademark exuberance and joie de vivre in a mixed bill of dance
There was a horrible moment about five minutes into Act II of Swan Lake when I thought the Trocks had changed. The all-male spoof troupe, complete with hairy chests and Adam’s apples, lovingly perform mostly female roles from classical ballet, and they win us over because they’re really good dancers. They are also very funny. Men in tutus are a laugh, not just because they look silly (women in tutus look silly, too), but because they show the sheer madness of ballet, its phony tippy-toed refinements, and how we easily mistake the dancers for their characters. (Ballerinas are not fainty flowers of womanhood but ambitious little toughies.)
However, the Trock’s opening number on their opening night slipped from fond spoof to coarse mockery. It’s probably not technically possible to criticise en travesti performers for being too camp, but their Swan Lake was. Even by their own larkily exaggerated standards, it felt over the top.
Happily, things improved in the next section. This included three short works, and then a fourth to close the evening, and all were a joy to watch. Instead of hamming it up, the Trocks danced with their trademark exuberance and balletic joie de vivre. The men, both tall and small, spun on pointe, leaping and turning, and then balancing in not-bad arabesques. None has the flexibility that comes easily to female dancers, but they do have poise and phrasing, which is the ability to give the steps something more than just the movement.
Robert Carter did this brilliantly in Majisimas. The long-term Trock curved his way through the slightly Spanish ballet set to music from Massenet’s opera El Cid. Carter was also excellent in the Pas de Trois des Odalisques, and everyone shone in La Trovatiara. This loveable nonsense features three pirate girls in 19th-century Tripoli who are not-very-forcibly made to dance by the emir’s flunkies. It is, like a lot of ballet, an excuse to watch pretty girls skip around, which the men do very well. Joshua Grant was especially good. Tall and fleshy, he feigned the sort of girlish giggles you don’t trust in a woman, let alone a man in tights. Scott Austin and Camilo Rodriguez were good as his two tiny supporters, and Roberto Lara and Christopher Lamb flashed swords as his female companions. One look at this sly pair and you knew they’d knock him off as speedily as their pirouettes.
Until 4 October, 2008.